How to Use Data for More Effective Email Campaigns

In 2015, Forbes Insights and Turn, a marketing software and analytics platform, conducted a study based on 162 senior executives to understand if data-driven marketing helped them in building customer loyalty and increasing sales.

64% of executives strongly agreed that data-driven marketing was just not important, but crucial to success in hyper-competitive global economy.

48% of them said that more-targeted campaigns and personalized messaging was a significant source of value.

To better understand the power of data gathering and usage on targeted campaigns, we’re going to take a look at a targeted, segmented email marketing campaign and work our way backward to understand what role data plays in ensuring you get the maximum out of your campaigns.

The campaign

effective email campaigns

I recently received the above email from Massdrop, a community driven online commerce shop that sells everything from audio and electronics to quilting and cooking, advertising things as varied as an USB DAC/amp combo and a leather pouch among others.

At first glance, the products in the email may seem random, but they’re not. You see, when I signed up to receive updates from Massdrop, they presented me with the following to choose my interests from:

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And the email I received, it included new and popular products from the interests/product categories I chose.

Lacking any real buying data from me (I haven’t purchased anything yet), this “interests” data ensures that the marketing emails I’m receiving are relevant to me and not just a random here’s a selection of everything you might maybe be interested in.

This is, of course, a very rudimentary example of data driving marketing. We can make it more effective by adding additional data sources into the mix.

Data like my browsing history, for example.

Just because I didn’t choose “writing” or “photography” as one of my interests doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not interested in them. When my browsing history shows that I’ve looked at those categories, it makes sense to start sending me information on those new products as well.

Last week I looked at macroeconomics books on Amazon, and just yesterday I received  the following email:

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Using data based on stated interests and browsing history is a great way to make email marketing more effective because the customer is getting emails about things that are actually relevant to him/her. This a big step forward over mass email campaigns that target everyone (and thus useful to no one).

Adding more data to increase accuracy

With online commerce, we can go one step further and add actual purchasing data to the mix.

It’s all well and good that I’m interested in macroeconomics and are looking at books about it, but when I don’t actually take the final step of purchasing it doesn’t really make a difference to me as the business owner. Whereas once I’ve purchased something once, I’m more likely to do it again.

Personal interests and purchasing history-based campaigns are only one example of a plethora of different ways that the same data can be used. By looking at things more broadly, we can identify trends in purchasing behavior of many different customers and group them by those behaviors.

Think things like average order value, purchasing frequency, purchasing recency, shopping behavior (only buy with coupons, only full price etc) and similar can all be used to design campaigns around.

Knowing that a customer has shown interest in macroeconomics and has bought books on the subject but only when there’s a discount can lead us to send mainly discount offers to that customer, thereby making it more likely that they’ll buy. #success

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Moving beyond email

While email marketing, especially with a data-driven approach, is one the most cost-effective ways to market, the power of data-driven segmentation doesn’t end there.

With Google AdWords Customer Match and Facebook’s Custom Audiences you can supercharge your marketing efforts by targeting people already on your lists with tailored ads based on your previous segmentation work.

This lets merchants reach customers in places where they might be more open to seeing and clicking on targeted ads versus using just email with the same offers.

Yes, this does mean that you’re paying to reach the people who are already on your list and this can seem counterintuitive. But when the net result is positive and you’re bringing in more money, it really doesn’t matter, does it?

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The power of prior segmentation and ads doesn’t end with targeting just your current user base. The same functionality can be used to reach new people who “look” and “act” like your current customers.

This is where the power of Lookalike Audiences (Facebook) or Similar Audience (Google AdWords) comes into play. Those ad networks analyze the people in your segments and based on the data that they on them, target people that are as similar as possible to people already buying from you. It works a bit better on Facebook simply because they have more usable data on you, but is still worth a try on AdWords as well.

What started out as looking at a new product announcement email from Massdrop has ended up with grafting lookalike audiences with Facebook Ads for new customer acquisition. That’s the beauty of data – you can use it in many different ways to achieve very different objectives.

More data (but don’t neglect creative)

With segmentation specifically, it can be used used to target specific customer groups via email and ads as well as for finding new customers. The more data you feed into the system, the better the system gets, and thus the more positive results you’re likely to see.

Perhaps the best news is that implementing such a system doesn’t have to be complicated. Smart email marketing software, Klaviyo among them, make capturing and using this data simple. You don’t need to integrate many different services and pray that they play nice with each other.

With all this data talk it’s easy to get carried away and believe that all you need for success is more data to enable better targeting and you’re golden. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple.

Yes, you need good data to be able to target the right people, but then you also need to work on the creative side to make your offers and display ads good enough to attract attention. Data is only one half of the equation. The creative side is at least as important as that.

To be truly successful, you need to bring your creative teams and data geeks together to maintain a balance between insight-driven ideas and compelling execution.


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